Atlanta may cover some of its highways with parks as a way to lure more young professionals into the city’s urban core. It’s not a new concept to cover highways with parks, but the idea appears to be getting more attention as cities compete for tech talent. According to the Wall Street Journal, these so-called “deck parks” help pretty up congested business districts which make them more attractive to millennial workers. (1)
Atlanta Inspired by Dallas Deck Park
The Journal says, Atlanta is getting inspiration from Dallas which unveiled a 5-acre deck park in 2012, over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. The Klyde Warren Park now provides a full range of entertainment options that include: a restaurant, food trucks, a dog park, a kid’s play area, and a reading and games courtyard. There’s also free WIFI and a butterfly garden.
The park helped reunite two sides of the city divided by the highway, and covered up noisy traffic with a giant park. It has also encouraged commercial and residential development in the area. Dallas city officials say the park attracts about a million visitors per year. President of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, Bobby Abtahi, told the Huffington Post, “It’s a place where you see anyone and everyone.” (2)
Dallas also broke ground on a second deck park last year. It will stretch across I-35 in the Oak Cliff neighborhood. Abtahi says, “Everyone knows the future of cities is a good quality of life and attracting folks and telling them you don’t have to live in a concrete jungle.”
Seattle as Deck Park Trailblazer
Dallas isn’t the very first city to create this kind of park. Seattle apparently built the first one more than 40 years ago. Phoenix has also had one since about 1990. And, Philadelphia is in the midst of building one over a highway next to the Delaware River.
The BillyPenn says, it’s difficult to see the river from the City Center right now. It says, “If everything goes right, the Delaware River will no longer be impossible to see.” Parks also increase the value of nearby real estate. James Burnett of the San Diego-based landscape architecture firm OJB told the Journal, “Open space drives real estate values through the roof.” (3)
The success of the Dallas park, and others, has encouraged some 30 cities to consider similar projects. Many have sent delegations to Dallas to see how that park was built, and to see how it’s being run. Burnett says it’s operated by a non-profit which raises millions of dollars for maintenance each year.
Atlanta Considers Three New Highway Parks
Now, Atlanta is considering three deck parks. A.J. Robinson, of Central Atlanta Progress, is pushing for the “Stitch” plan. He says, it will “reconnect what the interstate disconnected” with the creation of a quarter-mile deck park over a busy downtown connector. That’s about 14 acres of greenery with a preliminary cost estimate of $300 million.
Another project would put a park over Georgia State Route 400 for about $250 million. And a third project would put a deck park near Georgia Tech and Midtown Atlanta.
Some people are skeptical, saying it will attract more homeless people to the area. They also say that money spent on the park could be used to fill potholes or to fix other infrastructure issues. But, cities also know that job growth is necessary for survival and that our Millennial workers are an important piece of that puzzle.
Polls show that many Millennials prefer walking to driving, and would like to live in walkable cities. They also gravitate toward experiences rather than possessions, and place importance on social relationships. Deck parks cater to those values. Although the cars and trucks are still there, they will be hidden beneath a large patch of greenery bustling with people.